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The worship life of the Tongan people

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					                        The worship life of the Tongan people
                         Written by Rev 'Alimoni Taumoepeau

Based on the teachings of the Bible there is much that Tongan Christians share in
common with other Christians.. Yet, there are some unique elements of Tongan
spirituality and worship that are worthy of notice. Since Christianity arrived in Tonga in
the early 18th century, church and worship became a central feature of the Tongan
way of life. The monarchy encouraged the development of Christianity’s place in
Tongan and it is now an integral part of Tongan identity. Education was also greatly
supported by the church and this has also been a factor it’s influence on the values of
Tongan society. The church became the community and the community the church.
Culturally, church or worship is to be guarded with respect and dignity.

Tongan spirituality has a long and close connection with Methodist spirituality.
Meetings are quite regular and demanding. Sunday is treated as a holy day to be spent
in religious practices. There are also weekly prayer meetings choir practices and bible
studies. Regular participation is expected and people show a huge enormous
commitment to supporting the activities of their church. Often the whole family will be
in church for several hours to show loyalty and support of these programs.

In Tongan society a hierarchy exists from Monarchy, nobility to commoners. In a sense
there is also a hierarchy reflected also in the church and family for example, respect for
ministers and church leaders; respect for parents and respect for the elderly in the
community. Male dominance is the norm.

Prior to the coming of Christianity there was a tradition where there were tributes
offered to chiefs at special events. This giving was harnessed by the church as they
encouraged people to give generously even if that meant taking loans. The collection of
money is often very public, celebratory events with the amounts that familes give
announced. There is a noticeable generosity in Tongan Christianity.

For Tongans there are certain events in the church calendar that are very significant.
1.   The first week of every year is Uike Lotu a week of prayer. Tongan churches will
     gather every morning and evening each day for prayer and devotion followed by a
     big feast. Families and individuals will offer to host a dinner as a sacrifice made on
     behalf of God. There will be speeches from different people at the breakfast and
     dinner that often goes for hours as part of the worship and celebration.

2.   Toetu’u - Easter weekend is another time of the year that Tongan people use in
     special ways. Often Easter Camps are held that have a focus on families. It is a
     time of strict reflection and spiritual checking. The whole three days will be full with
     programs that include worship, teaching, sporting and feasting.
3.   Katoanga Misinale is Stewardship or Mission Giving Sunday held on a Saturday
     in October, November or December is a Tongan church tradition where
     individuals or families make their one time financial offering toward the work of the
     church. A long tradition of lump sum giving is made as a token of ones’ love for
     God. Thousands of dollars may be collected in one day. Again this will be
     celebrated with a feasting after.

4.   Po Le’o       New Years Eve is a special day that Tongans have used as part of
     their worship and celebration. Throughout the day there will be special feasting as
     part of the thanksgiving offering to God for the whole year of journey. On the night
     beginning at 10:00pm until 12:00am, a night watch service with several speakers
     leading the community of faith into the New Year.

These special days played a very important part in the worship life and religious
celebration of Tongan people. Until one is part of these religious calendars of the year,
Tongan spirituality may be seen as incomplete.

Tongan people have a warm heart toward God. As much as they love singing in
harmony and celebrative feasting, they will strive to make worship a priority as a
reverence for God.

				
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Description: The worship life of the Tongan people